Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sophomore Switch by Abby McDonald

Reeling from the aftershocks of what will heretofore be known as "The Hot Tub Incident," American party girl Tasha jumps at the chance to spend a semester abroad at tweedy Oxford University - banking on the fact that the tabloid stories about her won't have made their way across the Pond. But is wading Uggs-deep in feminist theory really so much better than living down the stares and snickers stateside?

Meanwhile, studious control freak Emily disappoints her snooty British family by throwing herself into film classes - not to mention bikinis and beer pong - at UC Santa Barbara. Her English accent gets her plenty of male attention, but not all of it welcome - especially the frustrating confrontations with a fellow classmate.

Twenty-four year old debut novelist Abby McDonald has crafted a funny, fast-paced, and poignant look at survival, sisterhood, and the surprising ways we discover our true selves. (from book jacket)

I thought that Sophomore Switch was so cute! It was a fun book with a great message, which makes for a wonderful combination.

This is the first book I've read with characters in college in a long time (or ever, I can't really remember). I liked that Tasha and Emily were my age, and I will be a sophomore in college soon so I can really relate to the school aspect of Sophomore Switch. I also enjoyed the fact that the book switches point-of-view between Tasha and Emily so we see both girls out of their element in new countries. Though sometimes the girls bordered on stereotypical of their respective cultures (Tasha is a party girl from California and Emily is intellectual and upper-class from England), I liked that they were able to change by the end of the book.

A theme of Sophomore Switch is the role of feminism in our daily lives and what it means to be an feminist. There are two schools of thought that are apparent in the novel: girls should be comfortable with their sexuality and act free-spirited or girls should not objectify themselves in any way. It's obvious which philosophy goes with which university, and I was interested to see in how Tasha and Emily reconciled their own views with the beliefs of their new location. I was annoyed that the militant feminists of Oxford were so unbending in their views and treated Tasha horribly after they learned about the "Hot Tub Incident." Luckily, Tasha was able to stand up for herself and come away from the experience a better person.

Emily was also a dynamic character, in that she shed some of her crazy control issues and was able to sit back in relax (though, it did help that she was in California). Emily was one of those people that studies ten hours a day and doesn't have any fun. Even though Emily was a political science major I liked that she was able to see the importance of her film classes, which she wrote off as frivolous in the beginning of the book.

All in all, I think girls of any age will enjoy Sophomore Switch. It was a cute and fun book that explores what it means to be a feminist.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from library.

2009/Candlewick Press/297 pages.

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